Iowa History Daily: On December 16, 1917, Frank Gotch of Humboldt, one of the greatest early American wrestlers, died. The first American to claim the world heavyweight free-style belt, Gotch’s career helped to popularize professional wrestling in the United States.
Born on a small farm three miles south of Humboldt near the confluence of the east and west forks of the Des Moines River, Gotch started wrestling locally during his teenage years. Perfecting his trademark toe-hold finishing move during matches against other Iowans, Gotch gained notoriety for nearly beating reigning American Heavyweight Champion Dan McLeod in a match lasting two hours at Lu Verne on June 16, 1899.
After another notable loss to former American Heavyweight Champion “Farmer” Martin Burns, Gotch spent time studying under his former opponent and wrestling matches in Iowa and the Yukon Territory. By 1903, Gotch proved ready to challenge for the American Heavyweight Championship and defeated Tom Jenkins to claim the title on January 27, 1904.
In 1908, Gotch defeated Estonian George “the Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt to gain the title of World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion. Held the title until 1913. After retiring, Gotch spent several years traveling with the circus where he went undefeated while challenging all takers to last 15 minutes in the ring with him without being pinned or conceding for a prize of $250. After he grew weary of the road, Gotch returned to Humboldt where he passed away in 1917. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar